Manitoba farmers get into the beer biz

Prodigal Sons Brewery, Derek Trinke (left) and Toban Dyck. (Photo courtesy Toban Dyck.)
Prodigal Sons Brewery, Derek Trinke (left) and Toban Dyck. (Photo courtesy Toban Dyck.)

Toban Dyck and Derek Trinke are drafting a plan and planning to draught.

If the plan works, the two Manitoban men will be making their own craft beer within a year.

Called Prodigal Sons Brewery, both have returned to their family’s farms just north of Winkler to start their beer business.

“We’re very pumped about this. It’s very exciting,” said Dyck. “It’s been a dream of mine.”

The pair will build a brewery on Dyck’s family farm just north of Winkler. The 1,200 acre wheat and soy bean farm has been in the family for 130 years.

In mid-April, the duo also launched an online crowd-funding campaign on to raise $20,000 to help build a smaller tap house on the property. They are also currently finalizing their business plan and will use it to find major investors, said Dyck.

Neither Trinke, nor Dyck has experience in the beer business.

Dyck is a magazine, newspaper and online journalist while Trinke, who lives across the lane on his own family farm, is an environmental consultant. Both men moved back to Manitoba several years ago from Toronto and Vancouver.

“The farm lifestyle was really appealing to both of us,” Dyck said.

They have already started brewing beer in a friend’s garage in Winkler. They plan to brew a lager, stout and a cream or pale ale to start.

Dyck pointed to Winnipeg’s Half Pints Brewery as inspiration and a model on how to build a successful craft beer business.

Indeed, last month Half Pints expanded its business by adding six 4,000 litre tanks to its St. James facility. The additional tanks will boost production by 56 per cent or roughly 1,500 24-bottle boxes per brew.

In the next few months, Half Pints also hopes to start selling in British Columbia. They currently sell beer in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“It’s going to keep us busy that’s for sure,” said Half Pints general manager Zach Mesman.

He also welcomed Prodigal Sons Brewery to the local craft brewing industry.

As Mesman said: “There’s lots of room for everyone. It’s only good for the industry.”

Back in Winkler, Dyck knows starting a brewery from the ground up will be a big challenge.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, that’s for sure.”

This story first appeared on CBC’s The Scene. Here’s the link.

Winnipeg 2014: Food trends to watch for

Diversity Foods executive chef Ben Kramer inside his new greenhouse at the University of Winnipeg. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)
Diversity Foods executive chef Ben Kramer inside his new greenhouse at the University of Winnipeg. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

Winnipeg’s food scene is never dull. Insiders keep the city’s food lovers satisfied with new foods and new food experiences. Winnipeg’s culture of cuisine continued to evolve in 2013, most notably with the addition of RAW:almond, the pop-up on ice, and the opening of Prairie 360˚, the city’s revolving restaurant and boutique coffee houses like Thom Bargen and Little Sister Coffee Maker. New additions, like The Grove’s Osborne Village location, are on the horizon. The coming year holds much promise too from local food purveyors, restaurateurs and chefs. Here are a few trends we’d like to see evolve in 2014 in Winnipeg.

Party Planners
Several years ago Bistro 7¼ launched School Nights, a weekly Sunday night get together at the South Osborne bistro. The party was free, everyone was invited and themes were reflected in food, drink and entertainment. The lively nights, which are still hosted each week, brought out diners of all stripes. It was (and still is) a fantastic way to spend a Sunday night meeting new people. More and more restaurateurs, chefs and foodies are introducing their own cuisine-themed parties hosted in-house or at secret locations. The professionals will look for creative ways to get bums in seats, especially on off-peak days and hours. We foodies want restaurant-hosted book clubs, themed tasting menus, food-fetes, tea parties and beer pairing dinners. If you build it, we will come.

Grow your own
Chaise Café and Lounge owner Shea Ritchie is one of several Winnipeg restaurateurs and chefs growing their own ingredients in the summer and winter. Ritchie’s Provencher Avenue eatery has a garden and container gardens in the summer and a hydroponic garden in the basement year round. (Robin Summerfield)

University of Winnipeg’s Diversity Foods, with chef Ben Kramer at the helm, is in the midst of starting his own indoor garden on campus inside a largely abandoned greenhouse. He is one of several local chefs growing (or trying to grow) his own greens and herbs. Johnny Kien at Saigon Jon’s and Shea Ritchie at Chaise Café and Lounge have also acquired green thumbs. Sure, Manitoba has a short growing season that severally limits using local produce but we’d still like to see more kitchens putting that ‘eat local’ mantra to the test.

Home-based kitcheneers, many with 9 to 5 lives, have started more small-batch, artisanal food companies in recent years. Flora and Farmer, Andorah’s Feast, Delicious Kicks are just a few newbies on the market. They sell their wares at farmers’ and makers’ markets, and boutique food shops. Taste, local ingredients and little or no preservatives are key in these jams, pickles, specialty baked treats, sauces and salsas. Quality and word-of-mouth is the key to success. There’s plenty more room in Winnipeg’s food scene for more artisanal food stuffs made by home-based foodies cum entrepreneurs. Bring on the pickles people.

Canning and Preserving
Peasant Cookery, a restaurant in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, started the in-house preserving and pickling trend. Or, in the least, they were the first business locals noticed embracing this trend. In either case, more local food emporiums are pickling, preserving and making jams to serve in-house. This annual Fall tradition preserves locally grown ingredients for service during the winter months and into spring. The jarred delicacies (pickles, asparagus, carrots and beets, berry jams et al) add new dimension to plates on cold winter days.

More pop-ups popping up
Secret dinners, backdoor bistros, alley burgers and supper clubs will continue to spike in 2014 as more professional foodies and food lovers get together on the side. Some pop-ups will be advertised on Facebook and Twitter and open to all. Others will remain on the down-low, skirting liquor laws and keeping those-in-the-know to a limited number. Whatever their form, pop-ups add life to a city’s food scene. The more the merrier.

Big thinkers
In 2013, Chef Mandel Hitzer and architect Joe Kalturnyk launched RAW: almond, Winnipeg’s pop-up restaurant on ice at The Forks. It was and is a resounding success. Diners came out in droves, bundled up in their finest cold-weather gear to experience some magic inside the big white tent. Winnipeg’s roster of chefs isn’t short on big thinkers with great ideas. The ongoing success of RAW: almond has opened the door for other big ideas. There have been rumblings about a winter food festival to celebrate the uncelebrated season. It’s time. Winnipeg can be a renowned food city. It’s on the cusp and the city’s talented crew of food makers and lovers will make it so.

Little Sister Coffee Maker's Vanessa Stachiw opened her Osborne Village coffee house in 2013. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)
Little Sister Coffee Maker’s Vanessa Stachiw opened her Osborne Village coffee house in 2013. (Photo by Robin Summerfield.)

My story first appeared on, an arts and culture website for Winnipeg and Manitoba.

Food-truck builder on a roll

Steve Moynes, owner Pizza Trucks of Canada
Steve Moynes, owner Pizza Trucks of Canada (photo robin summerfield)

As many great ideas go, this one started over a beer with a buddy.

In 1998, Steve Moynes and a friend with a great pizza recipe, hatched a plan: ‘let’s build a mobile pizza truck.’

And with that, Expressway Pizza, a restaurant and delivery service all in one, was born. Eleven franchisee trucks later and Moynes, who built the trucks himself, was definitely on to something.

Word got around that Moynes had quite a talent for building food trucks. After that, “people kept calling,” says the 59-year-old.

Today, Moynes and his family-owned company Pizza Trucks of Canada in Dugald, Manitoba, have built an estimated 100 food trucks and have orders to fill for a year and counting.

Two years ago, the food truck boom hit with Food Network shows likeEat Street and The Great Food Truck Race, says Sandy, Moynes’ wife and co-owner along with their three sons Trevor, Kevin and Steve Jr.

“Now we don’t even have to sell them anymore we just have to be competitive,” she says. The cost for a new, empty food truck starts at $50,000 and custom details go up from there.

Their restaurants on wheels are on streets across the U.S., Canada and Australia. He recently landed an order to build a pizza truck to send to Kenya. The company, Naked Pizza, is co-owned by Shark Tank shark and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Moynes also recently salvaged a circa 1937 blue school bus in Tok, Alaska. The bus will be transformed into a New York Fries food truck for Toronto streets.

Closer to home, Moynes and his family recently finished Habanero Sombrero and Vilai’s Spice Box, which both hit Winnipeg streets this spring.

Moynes–along with his sons–builds every interior inch of the trucks including electrical, plumbing and insulating. And the team works on two or three trucks or trailers at a time in their Dugald shop.

The key to making a great food truck is a great floor plan that uses every inch, gives workers their own space and creates ideal work flow, Moynes says.

“You have to lay out the floor properly or it just won’t work.”

That can be tricky when you’re limited to 130-square-feet, the foot print of the average 18-by-7-foot food truck.

But every truck has its own charms and challenges, Moynes says. “I love designing these things. Every one is different.”

My story first appeared on Here’s the link.

For a guide to Winnipeg’s food trucks click here.

For all the insider news on Winnipeg’s food, restaurant and chef scene follow me on Twitter @RSummerfield and @PegCityGrub.

Steve Moynes, owner Pizza Trucks of Canada
Steve Moynes, owner Pizza Trucks of Canada (photo by robin summerfield

Winnipeg’s ‘third wave’ coffee clatch sparks java resurgence

Thom Bargen
Thom Bargen (photo robin summerfield)

Little Sister Coffee opened for business in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village on September 11. The new coffee house is the second location for Nils Vik, owner of Main Street’s Parlour Coffee and marks the latest coffee/design house mash-up in the city.

With that in mind, here’s a story I wrote for CBC’s Scene about Winnipeg’s new wave of coffee. Here’s the link to the original story.


Thom Jon Hiebert pours scorching water from a stainless steel kettle into a sort of glass science beaker. Inside, sits a coffee filter, but no coffee.This is not the brewing process. This is prep.

Hiebert uses the hot water to wash away any paper fibers that might otherwise land in the cup he is about to make. Only then does he add the freshly ground beans.

“These beans were roasted just 20 days ago,” he tells his customer. “You might taste a bit of berry in here and it’s also very buttery.”

Forget double-doubles or even Starbucks lattes. There’s a new breed of coffee house that does for the bean what wine bars do for the grape. Each drink has its own  pedigree, carefully concocted and expertly explained.

This ‘Third Wave’ of coffee culture has hit Winnipeg in the form of several new, locally-owned grindhouses staffed by a skilled collection of “baristacrats.” Hiebert and Graham Bargen, opened Thom Bargen late last month. The Sherbrook Street boutique joins Corydon Avenue’s MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff, Café Postal in St. Boniface and Main Street’s Parlour Coffee. Finer grinds, higher water pressure, precise temperatures and a fresher bean all add up to a better brew.

“Fresh coffee just tastes different,” says Hiebert. “There’s none of that bitterness or burnt flavour of overly roasted beans.”

“It’s not just your dad’s coffee anymore,” says Adrienne Huard, co-owner of Café Postal. “It’s about rediscovering all the aspects of espresso.”These new merchants even know the varying harvest times in order to serve in-season beans. “It’s like wine,” explains MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff barista Hailey Darling.

These coffeehouses buy fair-trade beans from roasters like Pilot and Phil & Sebastian, Canadian roasters who actually visit the farms and meet the growers.

“Once you’ve tasted actual fresh coffee you’ll never go back,” promises Bargen.

MAKE Coffee & Stuff
MAKE Coffee & Stuff (photo robin summerfield)